* * *Here is a point at which typical Roman obfuscation is evident.
It was March 16, 1998—eleven years after Pope John Paul II had asked the Commission [for Religious Relations with the Jews] to determine what responsibility, if any, the Church bore for the slaughter of millions of European Jews during World War II. For the Church, a more explosive subject could hardly be imagined …
At the heart of the problem, as the Vatican commissioners recognized, was the fact that the Holocaust had taken place “in countries of long-standing Christian civilization.” Might there be some link, they asked, between the destruction of Europe’s Jews and “the attitudes down the centuries of Christians toward the Jews”?
Those who feared that the report might criticize past popes or past Church actions were soon relieved to learn that the Commission’s answer to this question was a resounding “no.” True, the report admitted, Jews had for centuries been discriminated against and used as scapegoats, and, regrettably, certain misguided interpretations of Christian teachings had on occasion nurtured such behavior. But all this regarded an older history, one largely overcome by the beginning of the 1800s.
In the Commission’s view, the nineteenth century was the key period for understanding the roots of the Holocaust and, in particular, the reasons why the Church bore no responsibility for it. It was in that turbulent century that new intellectual and political currents associated with extreme nationalism emerged. Amid the economic and social upheavals of the time, people started to accuse Jews of exercising a disproportionate influence… (David Kertzer, “The Popes Against the Jews: The Vatican’s Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism”, New York: Vintage Books, ©2002, originally published New York: Alfred A. Knopf, ©2001, pgs 3-4)
Kertzer brings out this point later in the book. The actual verbiage from the Vatican Commission’s document is, “But in that same historical context, notably in the 19th century, a false and exacerbated nationalism took hold. In a climate of eventful social change, Jews were often accused of exercising an influence disproportionate to their numbers. Thus there began to spread in varying degrees throughout most of Europe an anti-Judaism that was essentially more sociological and political than religious.”
What the Vatican fails to report is the very fact that it was a pope, and a work sanctioned by a pope, (approved of and distributed by the Vatican’s own theological journal – and reprinted with the explicit approval of the pope at the time) and a report by the “Holy Office of the Inquisition”, that made these charges, that led to this “sociological and political” anti-Semitism.
After describing the election of a new pope in 1823, Leo XII, Kertzer noted that shortly after his election,
he launched a stern morality campaign: He ordered the police to prevent taverns from serving alcohol, he attacked the waltz as obscene, he ordered that statues of naked women be removed from public view, and he ordered the arrest of any man found walking too closely behind a woman.…Keep in mind that this “report” was the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, er, the “Holy Office of the Inquisition,” at the request of a pope.
The Jews occupied a central place in this “rechristianizing” campaign. Embracing the virtues of the past, and purging the present of all the excrescences of modern times, meant ensuring that the Jews were confined to their divinely ordained place. As cardinal vicar of Rome, Della Genga [the new Pope Leo XII] had been outraged to discover that not all of the Holy City’s Jews had returned to their ghetto following the restoration of the papal regime. One of his major projects as cardinal vicar had been to oversee a modest enlargement of the ghetto, to undermine the Jews’ complaint that it was impossible for them all to fit in the densely packed space within the old ghetto walls. Now, as pope, he redoubled these efforts. In 1823, in one of his first pontifical acts [though this is not “a teaching,” to be sure, and this act is not infallibly protected and thus “the Church” can officially dismiss it as if it were nothing], Leo XII ordered the Jews back into the ghetto, “to overcome the evil consequences of the freedom that [they] have enjoyed….
Among the beneficiaries of the new Pope’s policies was the Holy Office of the Inquisition [later, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of which Ratzinger became the overseer for many years], which Leo XII turned to for help in his efforts. In the first year of his papacy, he had the Holy Office investigate the extent to which the old restrictions on the Jews in the Papal States were still being enforced. The goal as an internal Inquisition report expressed it, was “to contain the wickedness of the obstinate Jews so that the danger of perversion of the Catholic faithful” could be avoided. The report expressed dismay that some Jews lived outside the ghettoes, some traveled from place to place without the special permits they were required to get from the local office of the bishop or the inquisitor, and some had opened stores and businesses beyond the ghetto’s walls. The list of scandals went on: Jewish men were reported to be having relationships with Christian women; Jewish families were employing Christian servants and wetnurses; and Jews could be seen hiring coachmen and riding around in carriages, an offense to Christian sensibilities. “In a word,” the report concluded, “today Christians are found to be subject to the Jews, or at least put on equal footing with them, so that there hardly remains any distinction between them. We are not far, at this point, from seeing them admitted to Citizenship.”
The new Pope’s efforts to enforce these restrictions on the Jews relied on the bureaucracy of control provided by the Inquisition and by various other agencies of the Papal States. But it also had an ideological component. One of the first signs of this new ideological offensive was the publication, in 1825, of a long treatise on the Jews in Rome’s Ecclesiastical Journal, which was subsequently published as a separate booklet and went through four printings in 1825-26. Written by the procurator general of the Dominican order, Father Ferdinand Jabalot, it had been directly inspired by Della Genga when he was still cardinal vicar of Rome.Of course, we know about Popes and bishops working together on things. From the Catechism:
The booklet resurrected many of the traditional Catholic accusations against the Jews. Jews were guilty of deicide, and crazed with the lust for lucre and the desire to bring about the ruin of Christians. So intense was their hatred of Christianity that no evil was to great for them: “They wash their hands in Christian blood, set fire to churches, trample the consecrated host … kidnap children and drain them of their blood, violate virgins,” and on and on. [More later on the kidnapping of children and draining them of their blood.”]
The exiguous number of Jews in Italy—they constituted less than 0.2 percent of the population—did not deter Jabalot from attributing to them a huge—and pernicious—influence. [See the 1998 Vatican report to the effect that “In a climate of eventful social change, Jews were often accused of exercising an influence disproportionate to their numbers.”] In many parts of our land the Jews have become the richest property owners. In some cities money cannot be had, except through them, and so great has the number of mortgages they hold over Christians become, that it is only barely that the Christians have not yet become their vassals.” As for the Jews’ character, the portrait could scarcely be worse: Everywhere one hears of deceptions and frauds they have committed.” Many of them are “pickpockets, thieves, swindlers, assassins,” and their houses “are the general deposits for all kinds of stolen goods.” The Jews are ever busy “cheating and hoodwinking Christians ... at every opportunity ...”
Along with the traditional Catholic charges, Jabalot’s text provides some of the germs of what would become the major focus of later-nineteenth-century Catholic characterizations of the Jews. Wherever they live, wrote the Dominican, the Jews “form a state within a state.” Unless Christians act quickly, the Jews “will finally succeed in reducing the Christians to be their slaves. Woe to us if we close our eyes! The Jews’ domination will be hard, inflexible, tyrannical….The year was 1825. The Jews had not yet been given equal rights in any part of Itly, nor in most of the rest of Europe.
The pope was pleased with Jabalot’s work, and not long after its publication appointed him head of the Dominican order worldwide.
The Holy Office’s request in 1823 that the bishops and inquisitors report on the situation of the Jews in their jurisdiction unleashed an outpouring of complaints against the Jews (63-65).
2032 The Church, the "pillar and bulwark of the truth," "has received this solemn command of Christ from the apostles to announce the saving truth." "To the Church belongs the right always and everywhere to announce moral principles, including those pertaining to the social order, and to make judgments on any human affairs to the extent that they are required by the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls."Nevertheless, none of this made it into “the circle,” and so, as Rubinstein made clear to us in his First Things article, the Nazis owed “precisely nothing” to “the Catholic Church and its teachings” for their murderous campaign against the Jews.
2033 The Magisterium of the Pastors of the Church in moral matters is ordinarily exercised in catechesis and preaching, with the help of the works of theologians and spiritual authors. Thus from generation to generation, under the aegis and vigilance of the pastors [i.e. the Popes and the Holy Office of the Inquisition, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, etc.], the "deposit" of Christian moral teaching has been handed on, a deposit composed of a characteristic body of rules, commandments, and virtues proceeding from faith in Christ and animated by charity. Alongside the Creed and the Our Father, the basis for this catechesis has traditionally been the Decalogue which sets out the principles of moral life valid for all men.
Or, maybe Hitler and his henchmen owed precisely, “the ability to posit the Big Lie and get away with it”, to official Roman Catholic teaching.
All this was inspired by the principle--which is quite true within itself--that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.So, to review, then, repeat after me: the Roman Catholic Church and Roman Catholic Teaching contributed “precisely nothing” to the Holocaust of the Jews.
—Adolf Hitler , Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X